Chinese Tea and Scandinavia!
Uncovering vestiges of Scandinavia’s long history with Chinese tea on my recent trip to Norway and Sweden. I just spent the last 2.5 weeks visiting friends and exploring, savoring, and enjoying Norway and Sweden—it was awesome. Coming across little reminders of Scandinavia and China’s long history trading tea was something I couldn’t wait to share with you!
The top photo is an antique “congou” tea tin from the Norwegian Folk Museum. “Congou” was the mangled anglicized form of 工夫 gongfu (yes as in gongfu tea) that was used in European tea trade with China since 1725 to describe Chinese black teas.
Now with greater awareness of the Chinese language and the standardized pinyin system, “congou” is an outdated term with colonial undertones and most people have transitioned to gong fu.
The photo next to it is the tea tin in the context of the recreated 1800-1850’s era general shop in Oslo at the museum.
The three photos on the bottom are teas for sale in the Royal Gift Shop at the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm. I noted with great interest that the teas sold as the “Royal Tea Blend” were Chinese teas with historical Chinese images.
Sweden started trading with China for teas in 1731 with the establishment of the Swedish East India Company. According to wikipedia, the main cargo on these trading expeditions was tea!
The main cargo from China as of value was tea, in an overview from 1774 its share was about 90%. Much of the tea was re-exported and smuggled into England, undercutting the prices of that country’s own trade monopoly. The other important item was porcelain, accounting for about 5% of the cargo’s value
A.J. von Hopken, one of famed 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’ good friends said to Linneaus: “The tea that comes from China will always be the most desired, as it comes from far way.”
- Explore the stories behind each of Tranquil Tuesdays teas and teaware
- Travel with Tranquil Tuesdays seeking the best teas and teaware in China
- Learn the historical and cultural elements that make Chinese tea and teaware so unique